Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Taking the New Land

The Children of Israel came out of Egypt with great fanfare, and were led around the wilderness for 40 years. Finally they stood on the bank of the Jordan River, ready to move in. God gave them the land. "Go and take it," God said.

All of us come out of our own bondage in Egypt. The problem is that we're familiar with Egypt. We know how it works, and anything else looks strange.

I was very lucky. Well, in truth, luck had nothing to do with it. God let me wander around for years, denying Him and forgetting His promise. He promised me in 1971 that He would give me a new life. I dabbled a foot in the river, got confused and scared, and pulled back. I wanted to find God on my side of the river; He wasn't there, so I assumed He didn't exist.

He did not forget His promise. He waited... waited... while I drove myself farther down into a deep trench. He moved when He knew I was in a condition that I'd pay attention to His voice. A friend of mine has said many times that he wished God would speak as clearly to him as He has to me. Desperation tends to improve hearing. When the waiting was over, God moved one sensitive man into my life, and I ended up going to church for the first time in years.

Churches present many views of God. Some views are comforting, some are forbidding, some are intellectual, some are emotionally over the top. I needed to see God clearly in action, working in people's lives, doing things that changed the people. I needed to see people excited about God's actions, not the same old tired ritual of people saying God was remaking them when actually it was the people's own efforts doing the changing. I'd already tried that and failed. I needed supernatural help, and I needed people to lead me in the right direction. I needed people to show me what was possible.

This is what I found at Mosaic. The people were excited about what God was doing, and they were being changed. They were also open to me changing them. We all grew together. The most important thing they did for me was to give me examples of how God works in a way I could see. Both by example and by teaching I learned what I needed to know, and it was like rain falling after a fire has ravaged the hillsides.

Southern California is dominated by the chaparral ecosystem. All the rain falls in the winter. Fires break out in the fall and suddenly the mountains' bones are exposed. Ash and dirt. Then the rains start and flowers simply explode from the ground which is no longer bare. Chaparral is designed to burn so as to make way for new life.

So it became natural to me to ask God for things. Mosaic told me about His promises, and exemplified what happens when you trust those promises, and I needed them so I asked. I didn't know any better, and ended up thrashing my way across the Jordan and cutting a wide swath through the land I discovered. I had all these folks at Mosaic with me. They'd learned to live in a wide land, and the idea just rubbed off onto me.

Since then I've learned that this experience is unusual. Sad to say, many people just stay parked by the Jordan. They don't know what's out there! Toward the end of "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," by C.S. Lewis, the travellers find Aslan's Table spread with wonderful food but they're too afraid to eat any of it. Aslan is the great Lion, who represents Jesus Christ in these books. A woman comes out of a hill and asks them why they aren't eating. They mention all of their bad experiences on the trip. Once assured of the safety of the food, they fall to.

The bible is full of God's promises. I was walking back to the shop yesterday when I started thinking about this. My thoughts were prompted by a conversation with another man earlier in the day. He has been a Christian for a long time and knows the Bible very well. Has lots of it memorized, and can quote on any subject. As far as living goes, he's still timidly waiting for someone to tell him he can eat what God has provided. He's camped on the bank of the Jordan, wondering if it's OK for him to walk any farther.

On my walk I was thinking I'd been lucky to have found Mosaic. The Holy Spirit changed my thought. Luck had nothing to do with it; God was honoring his promise. God always does what he promises. He has promised to give us real life, to protect us, to teach us, to convict us.

From the outside it looks a very narrow place. People say everything is good; you can't just limit yourself to believing in Jesus. How can you say that anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus is going to Hell? I don't say it. God does. The gate is narrow. You have to come to God through Jesus. One way to approach, one way to be clean enough so that God can talk to you. After that the country becomes very large. The farther I walk the bigger it gets. You are either a slave to sin or a slave to God, and the latter is unlike any other kind of slavery you've heard of.

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